Pep Guardiola: A Great Manager or A Manager of Great Teams?

Despite being the most successful manager in the history of FC Barcelona, there are those who consider the current Bayern Munich manager to be overrated. Guardiola won thirteen trophies in four years as manager of FC Barcelona, including two UEFA Champions League titles, beating English powerhouse Manchester United in 2009 and once more in 2011. Guardiola is the youngest UEFA Champions League winning coach in history and won six trophies in 2009, winning all competitions his team took part in. He has achieved, so far in his relatively short managerial career, more than managers whose careers have spanned over twenty years. Regardless of his list of achievements, Guardiola is accused of simply being a man in the right place at the right time.

Critics of Guardiola critics argue that he simply inherits squads filled with great players, firstly at FC Barcelona and now the European Champions, Bayern Munich. While Pep can be considered to be fortunate to be able to manage two of the biggest football clubs in the world, he fully deserves all the plaudits he has received.

At FC Barcelona, he did not conquer the footballing world by just taking Frank Rijkaard’s team and throwing them on the pitch. Pep knew what he wanted to do and how to achieve it. He had to make changes and he did. Upon being appointed, Guardiola made it known that superstars such as Deco, Samuel Eto’o and former world player of the year Ronaldinho, among others, were not part of his plans for the upcoming season. Eto’o ended up remaining at the club for one more season while Deco and Ronaldinho left to join Chelsea and AC Milan respectively. Guardiola brought in players who became key components of his success at FC Barcelona such as Dani Alves, Seydou Keita and Gerard Pique. He also promoted Sergio Busquets and Pedro Rodriguez from Barcelona B, who also played key roles in his tenure. This is a trait of an excellent manager, creating his ideal squad for success and making no hesitation in making significant changes to a good squad for the good of the club even if it is at the expense of fan favorites.

The identity that he gives his teams is another admirable trait that Pep possesses. The brand of football that he employs is of equal importance to Guardiola’s legacy as his thirteen trophy haul at FC Barcelona. Guardiola’s FC Barcelona team redefined the “beautiful game” and he has his current team, Bayern Munich, aiming to play the same style of football.

According to Bayern legend Lothar Matthaus, “tiki-taka has already reached Bavaria.” “Tiki-taka” is a strategy where numerous short passes are completed by the team, causing the team utilizing the strategy to dominate ball possession. There is a large amount of ground covered when using “tiki-taka”. It played a huge part in FC Barcelona’s success under Guardiola and in playing his way; And now his Bayern team is in a stronger position than they were at this point last season.

Critics of Guardiola believe that he is not a good man-manager, citing Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s views on him as proof. Ibrahimovic, in his autobiography, said of Pep:

“Guardiola is a fantastic coach. But as a human? He is a coward. He is no man.”

Coming from perhaps the most egotistical footballer in the world, those words carry very little weight. Ibrahimovic’s words can be interpreted as jealousy due to the fact that he was not the star at FC Barcelona, as he was at previous clubs. Bayern president Uli Hoeness seemed to believe the same. Speaking regarding Ibrahimovic’s comments, Hoeness said:

“I think Ibrahimovic is an aggrieved prima donna who has not coped well with his departure from Barcelona.”

In terms of his man-management abilities, Guardiola is adept at getting the best out of his players. Managing a team of world class footballers is not an easy task. Just look at how Frank Rijkaard struggled to get the best out of a team that included stars such as Deco, Ronaldinho and Eto’o. Before FC Barcelona appointed Pep Guardiola, they looked to be simply a group of excellent individuals, rather than a great team. Guardiola’s man-management abilities enabled him to have a tactically organized unit, a great one at that. He stifled all egos for the good of the team, and that team succeeded. It is the same story at Bayern. No player believes that they are bigger than the team, and they are doing well.

At 42 years old, Pep Guardiola is young compared to other managers. It may just be too early for him to be classified as a truly legendary manager, but if he continues in this fashion he may very well be looked on as one of the greats, sooner or later.

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